Final effort symbolized entire season

Saturday, March 8, 2003

Our season ended Tuesday night with a spirited performance by our basketball team in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Morehead, Ky.

Morehead State was co-champion of the OVC this year and has an excellent team that was heavily favored. We fell behind by 20 points in the first half but battled back in the second half to throw a real scare at Morehead State.

We got within three points a couple of times in the second half and were within three and had the ball with just 30 seconds remaining, but Ricky Minard, who is expected to be the OVC Player of the Year, came up with an athletic steal that sealed the verdict in a 91-84 win for the Eagles.

The final game was sort of a microcosm of the entire season. We hung in there and battled hard but just weren't able to pull the game out at the end.

I'm very proud of this basketball team because of how they hung together, practiced hard and played together although they weren't getting a lot of wins. If we carry that same attitude into next season when we will have additional talent, the future is very bright.

We had only two seniors that played a lot. I talked about Tim Scheer and his outstanding contributions to our program last week, and he was certainly missed in those final games. Demetrius King saved his best for last. He had the best game of his two-year career with 18 points at Morehead State along with fine defensive play. Demetrius played hard to keep his season from ending.

The other players, including our top two scorers, our top two rebounders and our top assister, return next season.

Derek Winans certainly had another great season and was again our top scorer. Brett Hale showed tremendous progress during the season and was our second-leading scorer and our top scorer in OVC games. He closed strong with 31 points at Tennessee State and 24 points in the opening tournament game. Brett also led the OVC in free-throw percentage.

Brandon Griffin had a phenomenal year on the boards. He broke Bud Eley's single-season rebound record of 310 by pulling down 314 rebounds, which is an amazing feat. He is a relentless rebounder who doesn't give up on any ball coming off the boards. His future is bright at Southeast.

Damarcus Hence was our second-leading rebounder and fifth-leading scorer as he also averaged in double figures. He is continuing to improve every season.

Kevin Roberts moved into the starting lineup during the second half of the season and led the OVC in assists and assist/turnover ratio.

Five coming back

The five players I mentioned, along with junior Adam Crader and freshmen Cole Grappherhaus and John Boggio, will all return next season.

We already have three key players for next year on campus. Mike Nelke, a point guard transfer from Valparaiso, is a great 3-point shooter who really knows how to distribute the basketball. Reggie Golson is a 6-foot-7 swing player who will seek a medical redshirt after playing in only one game this season, and Dainmon Gonner is a 6-6, 240-pound inside player who has been impressive in our practice sessions.

We signed Norman Prather, a 6-4 guard, during the early signing period, and he is having a good sophomore season at Mineral Area Community College. He can come in and provide instant help along with the three players who are already here.

We still have three scholarship available, and we hope to sign another big man and then just find two other players who can help us regardless of position.

The future of Southeast basketball is very bright. We've gone through two tough seasons, and I would again like to thank the fans who have stayed with us and continue to support us through attendance at the Show Me Center games. We again led the OVC in attendance, and that is a great tribute to you fans.

Thanks for your support, and we hope to give you a lot to cheer about next season.

Gary Garner is the men's basketball coach at Southeast Missouri State University.

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